Expect many more Baxters working on the manufacturing floor this year.
Rethink Robotics Inc., the maker of the collaborative robots, is receiving $26.6 million to further build its business. GE Ventures is leading the Series D financing and is being joined by Goldman Sacks as well as earlier investors Bezos Expeditions, Charles River Ventures, Highland Capital Partners, Sigma Partners, Draper Fisher Jurvetson and Two Sigma Venture.
The latest investment pushes its total funding over $100 million since its founding in 2008 and the company said it will be used for further innovation, growth and international expansion.
“At some point in the future, every manufacturing environment will have a collaborative robot whether it is Baxter or some other. We've proven that they exist and now it is matter of building scale,” said Rethink Robotics Chief Marketing Officer Jim Lawton, in a telephone interview.
Boston-based Rethink Robotics introduced Baxter in September 2012 as a robot that was interactive, easily trained and could work alongside humans. It began shipping the robot in 2013.
“We were using our time to make sure the customer got what they wanted,” Lawton said.
The company worked with various manufacturers, including plastic processors, to make it better and improve the software. Baxter is faster and more efficient and is able to do many more tasks. Lawton said that the robot is being used for such things as line loading, machine testing, packaging and material handling transfer.
A December 2014 YouTube video shows Baxter working for Flambeau Inc. of Baraboo, Wis. The robot packs parts into a box, and adds a divider between levels until it fills the box.
Rethink Robotics is finding its niche in manufacturing and the added funds will help it sell more. Lawton said that companies had been testing Baxter one at time. Smaller companies seek easily trained robots, while the bigger multi-national companies are looking for numbers to standardize its processes wherever in the world a product is being made.
“The second half of last year we had four times as many sales as we had in the first half,” said Lawton.
The private company doesn't release sales figures but it continues to grow. It has about 80 employees.
In his January 2015 blog, Rethink Robotics Chairman and co-founder Rodney Brooks said that one thing that he forecast in the coming year is large scale deployment of collaborative robots in the manufacturing space.
Now, they have extra capital to make even more Baxters.